By Patrick F. Cannon
President Biden failed to show up at the scene of the Norfolk Southern Railroad derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, so somehow it became his fault. Our canny former president, Donald Trump, did show up. As it happens, that area of Ohio voted overwhelmingly for him in 2020, so he came to preach to the choir.
East Palestine is just west of the Pennsylvania state line, in a part of Ohio hit hard by the loss of heavy industry, like its neighbors Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Wheeling and Steubenville. Area residents voted for Trump because they felt betrayed by their government, and saw him as a champion against the entrenched establishment. They thought he really cared about them, and many still believe he does. The evidence suggests, however, that he cares only about himself. In private, he probably sees them a “losers,” a word he cherishes.
The reality is the tide of change washed over this and other areas, leaving behind what has come to be known as the “rust belt.” Someday, the tide may change and bring back prosperity, and no doubt the president of the day will take credit, just as Biden has taken credit for today’s low unemployment and seeming prosperity (he tries not to say too much about inflation).
The derailment was an accident, one of many that occur every year on the nation’s railroads. President Biden had nothing to do with it. The responsibility lies purely with the Norfolk Southern Railroad Company, and lax regulation. That it happened in East Palestine was their misfortune. Living in the Chicago area – crisscrossed with tracks as it is – I shudder to think what a similar derailment would have meant had it happened on the tracks that travel through the Austin neighborhood.
If we’re honest, we should admit that the blame for many of our problems is shared more or less equally by Democrats and Republicans. Let’s take inflation. Stimulus and infrastructure programs passed by both parties have contributed to it. An example: I received checks I didn’t need, which I promptly donated to charities and other non-profits. I was also given tax cuts, which the nation couldn’t afford. Who do we blame? Trump, Biden, Obama, Bush? Or maybe FDR? How about ourselves for electing self-servants instead of public servants?
President Biden is being blamed for the mess at the southern border. But the immigration mess has been with us for multiple administrations. There are legislators from both parties who have worked together to craft solutions that would both better protect the border and deal rationally and humanely with the millions of illegal immigrants who have become an important part of our economy. What has happened to these bipartisan efforts? Partisan squabbling, that’s what.
(Of course, presidents are responsible for some of our misfortunes. I’ll just mention two that we can lay at President Biden’s feet: leaving Afghanistan like a thief in the night; and forgiving student loans before last year’s mid-term elections when he must have been told it might not be found constitutional.)
Back to the derailment. Due to deregulation – a Republican mantra – we now have freight trains 200 or more cars long. These endless trains – if you’re waiting for one to pass – are crewed by just two people, an engineer and conductor. Just one bearing failure in one wheel among nearly a thousand can cause a major derailment, yet railroads are not required to have heat sensors. As it happens, the Norfolk Southern does have sensors, but at intervals too far apart in this case. There is bipartisan legislation pending that would mandate heat sensors every ten miles. If through some miracle it passes, you can be sure President Biden will take credit for it!
Copyright 2023, Patrick F. Cannon
2 thoughts on “Blame Game”
If you are president, do not ask where the buck stops, it stops with thee. Well, at least not if a Mr Biden is the president (There is some question about that.) He has a brilliant young Transportation Secretary he appointed for his masterful leadership in South Bend, Indiana, and a miraculous ability, mirabile dictu, to suckle a child. Surely, East Palestine, Ohio, has a hungry child in need of succor. True, the downtrodden residents of East Palestine, Ohio did not vote for the Democrat, but is that an excuse for our president, who serves all Americans, for
waiting two weeks to send his photo-ready Wonder Secretary, clad in chukka boots, reflector jacket, goggles and hardhat, to the scene? Alas, we remember George Bush fils getting reamed out for a casual response to Hurricane Katrina. Does not the venerable Biden, houseplant that he may be, deserve similar consideration?
The train wreck was unforeseen and unintended, an accident, certainly not Mr Biden’s fault, though he was known for riding trains. No accident, the Biden response was predictable and willful. When asked why he himself did not go to Ohio, like Cain he responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper? The East Palestine peasants are hardly my brothers, and they didn’t even vote for me. Besides, they are too pale to be victims, you can see that, at least media-worthy victims, and I only champion victims. Let them wallow in toxic waste, it is their destiny. They are not victims so there is no one to blame. Don’t look at me! It was a train accident. Maybe you can blame the railroad. They are robber barons, and they prey upon the innocent. My hands are clean. See? I always wash them. Who was that Cain fellow anyway? A Republican?”
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These visits are always staged events. Could be Biden didn’t do enough “look like you care” rehearsals.